Human Exceptionalism

Rare Media Defense of Human Exceptionalism

The media and the academy love anti-human exceptionalists–and I think for the same reasons. I believe the unremitting assault on unique human value–animal rights, nature rights, transhumanism, bioethics–aims to break the spine of Judeo/Christian moral philosophy (not the faiths, but them too) toward the end of destroying perceived moralism and opening the door to treating the most weak and vulnerable among us as objects.

It is thus rare to see much space devoted in mainstream media outlets to defending human exceptionalism. Hence, I want to compliment Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Joe Golenesi for presenting philosopher Timothy Chappell’s rebuttal to rebut the noxious idea that chimps can be “persons” in a column about Steven Wise’s lawsuit to obtain a chimp write of habeas corpus.

Chappell seems to reject the dangerous notion that our value comes from our capacities of the moment of taking the pulse, but rather, is intrinsic to being human. From, “Is Personhood an Animal Right or a Human Privilege?”: (my emphasis)

What Chappell sees in the application of the checklist is pure horse-before-the-cart-ism. Persons, as Chappell sees it, exist first; the list can still be applied but it’s to a person already-made. This distinctiveness is ours, and ours only to share in what Chappell calls the ‘primary moral constituency’.

It matters that we are a species, and it matters that there are other species. For us though, our primary moral constituency is humankind, and it precedes lists of criteria and properties that might be applied to individual members.

Golenis explains:

Chappell’s notion of the primary moral constituency sets up an arena where we undertake meaningful and reciprocal moral relations—the sorts of relationships that can only exist intra-species, and has ultimately little to do with the power relations inherent in the idea of speciesism.

‘I think we lose something very important if we lose sight of that idea that what species you’re in does actually have some basic moral significance. I think that idea is just true. The basic campaign against speciesism has often been based on misunderstandings of that.’

Chappell rejects the cheap and intellectually vacuous canard–oft aimed in my direction–that because humans have primary value, we human exceptionalists believe that no other species matter:

‘There is often a danger in the debate of making it sound like that only humans matter morally and it’s only with humans that we can have deep and valuable relationships. I think that is patently and obviously false. There have been plenty of individuals for whom their most significant relationships were with beings of other species such as dogs.’

Exactly. The whole concept of animal rights is a misnomer–since no animal would have any rights vis a vis other animals. Instead, the question sounds exclusively on the extent of human duties–with animal rights believers claiming that we have a radical-self-sacrificial obligation to treat animals as we want people treated.

Only we have the capacity to be that (stupidly) altruistic and self-destructive. Ironically, this radical quest proves: We are exceptional!

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Problem with Certainty

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including those of you having this read to you while you white-knuckle the steering wheel trying to get to wherever you’re going for the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
White House

For Democrats, the Party’s Over

If the Democrats are really tempted by impeachment, bring it on. Since the day after the 2016 election they have been threatening this, placing their chips on the Russian-collusion fantasy and then on the phantasmagoric charade of obstruction of justice. The attorney general accurately gave the ingredients of the ... Read More
U.S.

America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. ... Read More